‘House of the Dragon’ Episode 7’s Twist Ending is the Biggest Change From the Books Yet


When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die—unless, as it turns out, there’s some middle ground after all. Previously thought to not exist, House of the Dragon offered a third way to play the game in its seventh installment, “Driftmark,” delivering an episode-closing twist that surprised show-only viewers and book-readers alike.

In fact, it’s the fans who have read George R.R. Martin’s Fire and Blood who were most surprised by the way “Driftmark” closed out: Laenor Velaryon (John MacMillan) faking his own death with an assist from his wife Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) and her new husband Daemon (Matt Smith). Here’s how it played out, and why it’s such a big deal to the book-reading faithful.

Directed by Miguel Sapochnik and written by Kevin Lau, “Driftmark” centers on the location at the heart of the title: Driftmark, the royal seat of House Velaryon. Royals from far and wide gather to memorialize Laena Velaryon (Nanna Blondell), with basically every major player on the show in attendance: King Viserys (Paddy Considine), newly reappointed Hand of the King Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), his daughter/Viserys’s queen, Alicent (Olivia Cooke), the aforementioned Rhaenyra and Daemon, and all of the respective children.

Already gathered for a tragic occasion, the funeral only inspires further tragedy when Rhaenyra and Alicent’s kids break out into a bloody fight, resulting in clearly drawn battle lines between the two sides of the king’s family. There’s no putting the blood back in the vein, as it were, and Rhaenyra knows it. War for the throne is coming, and she needs to shore up allies on her side.

To that end, Rhaenyra and Daemon consummate their relationship on the beaches of Driftmark, and later agree that it’s time to unite together as wife and husband to solidify their claim for the Iron Throne. There’s just one problem: Rhaenyra’s married to Laenor. While he lives, Rhaenyra and Daemon cannot marry. It’s Daemon who points this out to Rhaenyra — and it’s Rhaenyra who coldly agrees, indicating her willingness to murder her husband of 10 years, Laenor Velaryon.

In the final act of the episode, we see a flurry of events leading up to a Rhaenyra-ordered hit on Laenor. Daemon confronts Laenor’s lover Qarl Correy (Arty Froushan) and offers him a great deal of wealth in order to do a job. Elsewhere, Daemon kills a man of House Velaryon, for nebulous reasons at the time. Later, Qarl provokes Laenor in a quiet chamber of Driftmark, with only one boy around as a witness. The witness flees the scene of the crime as Laenor and Qarl draw swords and fight each other, presumably to the death. When the witness returns with Laenor’s parents Corlys (Steve Toussaint) and Rhaenys (Eve Best) in tow, Qarl is gone, and Laenor’s body is roasting in a fire, charred beyond recognition. The Sea Snake and the Queen Who Never Was howl in agony over the body of their last remaining child, and the audience is left to rage at Rhaenyra and Daemon as the two murderers marry each other in a bloody beachside ceremony.

Except Rhaenyra and Daemon aren’t murderers, at least not on this occasion. The episode ends with Qarl pushing a rowboat away from Driftmark under the cover of night. He’s joined by a hooded man, who hops on the boat with Qarl. As they row deeper and deeper into the ocean and head toward a vessel, the hooded man’s identity is revealed: Laenor Velaryon, alive and well in reality, dead and gone to the world at large.

It’s a big twist for House of the Dragon, no doubt, but it’s a bigger twist for those who read Fire and Blood. In the book, Laenor dies, full stop. An in-universe historical record drawing on various second- and third-hand accounts to tell the tale of the Targaryen dynasty, Fire and Blood leaves the specifics of Laenor’s death up to some interpretation, but there’s no disagreement that it happens. Reports suggest Qarl killed Laenor at a fair, with several public witnesses in attendance. Qarl’s motivation is left up for debate, with some chalking it up to a lover’s quarrel, while another account suggests he was hired by Daemon in order to clear the way to marry Rhaenyra. In any event, after the killing, Qarl Correy is never seen or heard from again, in Fire and Blood or otherwise.



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